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Disability Insurance Observer: Paralympics

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The Hartford (NYSE:HIG) recently announced that it will continue to sponsor the U.S. Paralympics through 2016.

Hartford has been backing U.S. Paralympic athletes since 1994 and became a founding partner of the U.S. Paralympics program in 2003.

Mike Concannon, the executive vice president for group benefits at Hartford, said the company is proud to continue to support individuals break through physical limitations to achieve greatness.

As a digital content churner outer, occupying a momentarily stable niche in the space-time-information continuum between being a straight reporter and a wild and woolly columnist, I was happy to see a company beset by the forces of change continuing to support something nice.

Hartford, of course, has been making a point of disposing of individual life, retirement plan and broker-dealer businesses that had seemed so core to operations before 2008 and so extraneous after the Great Recession swooped in.

The company has said that it will be keeping the group benefits business.

In these sad, divestment-oriented times, it’s hard to know whether, “We’re keeping Unit X” means that a company really likes Unit X, or whether, when a company says something nice about any unit that does anything riskier than getting free money from the Fed and lending it to the U.S. Treasury for 1 percent interest per year, the company simply hasn’t found a buyer for Unit X.

The Fed’s “zero interest rate policy,” the election wrangling, and the turmoil in Congress seem to make this a poor environment for planning seriously for any event that is expected to occur more than a few days in the future. 

Athletes who compete in the Paralympics face physical challenges.

Members of the investment and regulatory communities seem to be facing challenges involving the regions of the brain responsible for thinking about the day after tomorrow.

Earlier this year, securities analysts were tsk tsking about any insurance company unfortunate enough to be involved in long-term care insurance; now, the analysts seem to be muttering sadly about insurance companies unfortunate enough to be involved in long-term anything.

Offering to reimburse a consumer who will need a broken toe fixed next week? Yay, you, fine short-term outlook insurer!

Offering to help large numbers of Americans protect their work income over the course of a career, or access to retirement income after they retire? You thought a bad word: Future. Go to the doghouse where insurers that think about the future go.

For me, the most interesting point about the Hartford-Paralympics deal is that it’s supposed to last until 2016. The people at Hartford who negotiated it had to try to think almost four years into the … future.

What a brave thing to do.

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